The era of digital applications gave rise to the app-based ride-sharing industry. Ride-hailing services, like Uber or Lyft, present job opportunities and a more convenient mode of transportation than traditional taxis.
However, they are associated with the growing number of road deaths. An academic study finds that there has been an estimated 3% annual increase in motor vehicle fatalities since ride-hailing apps showed up on U.S. roads. If you frequently take an Uber or Lyft for your transport needs, what do you need to know if you are in an accident?
Circumstances of the crash
Ride-sharing apps can legally operate in Virginia. Companies like Uber and Lyft must fulfill the state’s requirements, which include having an at least 21-year-old and validly licensed driver who underwent a thorough background check. But when crashes happen, there are unique circumstances involved.
Uber or Lyft drivers are independent contractors who use their own vehicles in contract with ride-sharing companies. This setup presents a different insurance coverage system that often protects ride-sharing companies from lawsuit liability. Additionally, the degree of liability of both drivers and ride-sharing companies hinges on the driver’s status at the time of the crash.
- The driver is on duty, app on, on the way to pick up or already with a passenger: Commercial liability insurance with a $1 million limit applies
- The driver is on duty, app on, waiting for a passenger: The driver’s personal auto insurance coverage applies, and if not enough, there is the company’s 50/100/25 contingent liability policy – $50,000 per person for bodily injury, $100,000 per accident for bodily injury and $25,000 per property damage
- The driver is off duty, app off: The driver’s personal auto insurance coverage applies
With several stakeholders involved, it can be challenging to properly determine who you need to sue for damages. Since drivers are not employees, ride-sharing companies may quickly shift the blame to avoid accountability. If the ride-sharing driver is also a victim, both of you are eligible to seek damages from the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
Assess your ride
There are various potential scenarios and outcomes in a ride-sharing crash. To protect yourself and your legal rights, it would help to have a resolute legal team who understands your hardships and how convenience may come at a cost.